Experts: Previous SCOTUS decision paved the way for ACEs in NH
As U.S. Supreme Court decisions on election law and donor disclosure on Thursday grab the headlines, education experts say a ruling last year repealing the so-called Blaine Amendments could mean more in New Hampshire.
The New Hampshire state constitution contains Blaine’s amending language, a holdover from the nation’s anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant past. And before the Supreme Court ruling, this language could have endangered the state law on the “Education Freedom Account” (EFA) included in the new budget.
AETs would allow families to use the state’s share of their child’s per-pupil funding – the appropriate education grant – for authorized education expenses outside of their assigned public school.
According to a panel of experts on school choice recently convened by the Center for Education Reform, the 2020 SCOTUS decision in Espinoza vs. Montana allowed parents to choose the education they want for their children.
“State law can no longer be a barrier to the participation of religious schools,” said Paul Clement, former solicitor general of the United States.
Clement called the Espinoza transformative decision and ultimately squandering Blaine’s blatantly anti-Catholic amendments found in state constitutions across the country. New Hampshire is one of 37 states that adopted the education funding changes proposed by James Blaine in the 1870s.
At a time when Irish and German Catholic immigrants came in large numbers to the United States, Blaine, a Republican of Maine and then Speaker of the House, used anti-Catholic bigotry lobby for a ban on public funding of Catholic schools. These amendments were often referred to as “unaided” amendments, or amendments against “sectarian education”.
Public education in the 1870s included Protestant Bible teachings and aimed to assimilate immigrants into American and Protestant culture.
Clement said that Espinoa This decision calls into question the continued existence of these amendments in state constitutions. the Espinoza The ruling concerned a Montana state program that allows parents to get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for money donated to private schools. The Montana Supreme Court ruled that the program violated the state’s constitutional “no help” provision, prohibiting the use of public funds to support religious activities.
“Blaine is almost dead, but he needs a last push before he’s completely dead,” said David Hodges, lawyer at the Institute for Justice.
There are still unanswered legal questions regarding the Espinoza decision, and Hodges has said he hopes to get them to the United States Supreme Court soon. The big push, however, must come from state legislatures, he added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked renewed interest in private and religious schools as many public schools across the country have remained closed despite science showing it was safe to hold classes with COVID-precautions. 19 in force. Hodges said it would help push more parents to seek to get rid of the Blaine Amendments in their states.
“The pandemic has exposed the bad faith of many teachers’ unions,” Hodges said.
Ross Izzard, with the ACE scholarship, said the work needs to be done by parents. “As huge as the Espinoza the victory was, and it was huge, it’s not enough to give the kids what they need, ”said Izzard.
He wants parents to get involved at the local level by advocating for more school choices.
Animosity towards religious education persists in Granite State. Last year a Croydon, the NH family have filed a complaint when the city would not pay the tuition for a kindergarten to grade 12 student in a religious school in the same way it did for secular schools as part of its “municipal schooling” policy.
In 2019, Rep. State Tamara Meyer The (D-North Hampton) posted a post stating “F *** private and religious schools” on his public Facebook page. When NHJournal reported the story, Le withdrew his post but reiterated his anti-religious education position.
Le temporarily lost his position on the House Education Committee and has since stepped down.
The EFA program in the newly signed budget will send between $ 4,000 and $ 5,000 per student to eligible parents per year, and parents can withdraw their students from a public school and then spend that money directly on tuition, the tutoring, home and school materials. supplies that the family deems necessary.
This story was originally published by the NH Journal, an online news publication dedicated to providing fair and unbiased reporting and analysis on new policies of interest to New Hampshire. For more stories from the NH Journal, visit NHJournal.com.